High School? Wooddale HS class of '82?
I have some reasons for that one. I'm not sure they're good reasons, but I have a few. I think it has to do with questions I don't want asked...questions I don't want to answer. Even after all these years.
But truth be told, I was only really close to a handful of folks anyway.
And then there's this.
I'm a preacher's kid. I had to move. Two times in my life I felt close to many folks who make up a grade. By the time I actually got into high school, I was pretty self-protective. I'd been burned once by leaving childhood friends in Mayfield, Kentucky. Once again, after recovering from that to leave new relationships a few years later in Jackson, Tennessee. By the time I got to Memphis for High School, culture shocked aside...I was running with shields up and phasers ready to fire.
Much of my personality, I think, comes from that fear that I can't afford too many people to know me - really know me - in part, because I've endured the pain of taking leave too many times. So, while I guess I'm an alright guy, there's far too much of me pushed beneath the surface.
Among the critiques I've continually encountered as an adult is that I'm "too serious." I don't think that's the case, so much... I'm just working hard to maintain the appearance that I've got my, uh, "stuff" together.
Sounds like I need a "Dr. Phil" moment, doesn't it? Yikes!
I went to Memphis State. 20,000 students. Who am I going to have a reunion with, the Philosophy Department? Please...they're in my head all the time anyway, I don't need to go see them.
In about a week I'm going to go to my first one. I'm going back to the hallowed halls of Vanderbilt Divinity School to celebrate, in part, the class of 1990.
Vandy was the only place I applied for seminary. That probably wasn't the smartest thing in the world to have done. I think I shorted myself opportunities and experiences that could have been lived in a multitude of places.
But I don't regret it, now. In fact, the farther away I get from that experience, the more I'm starting to appreciate it for the richness of theological grounding it gave me. This was the place that gave me language for what were already many observations I had about the nature of God, the role of the Church, and the responsibility of the minister to function as theologian.
And this was the place that challenged my core - it confronted me with the reality that issues are not just issues, there are children of God attached to them, too often marginalized, in need of advocacy.
But those were hard days. First time really away from family. I served student appointments all the way through for not only financial issues, but also for the benefit of getting some pastoral experience immediately. There were some trade offs for the that decision, but, on balance, I think I was better for having taken the path I took.
I'm not sure how many of my classmates are going to be there, but I feel I need to be, if, for no other reason, to give thanks for that band of brothers and sisters who traversed those halls with me.
They came from different places and agendas, but somehow we clung to each other through those years and made it. We studied, anguished, practiced our craft, drank ourselves silly sometimes, and pushed each other to be more than we thought we could. It was fraternity house, residency, and clinical pastoral education all rolled up into one.
In the end, we were "congregation" for each other when it was clear that no one else could be at that time.
I'm thankful for that experience for many reasons. Foremost among them, there's a group of about 12 folks I ran with during those years who saw me for who I was and loved me anyway. In that crucible, there was no room for pretense. At times it was raw, other times vulnerable. Masks and put ons were not allowed, and each had the skill to recognize it and the obligation to call any of us on it when tempted to revert to it.
It was the first time in my adult life I experienced that on such a level. We've all scattered into the far reaches over these years. I've stayed in touch with 4 or 5 of that group. I want to know how all the rest of them are doing.
So, I'm going back. And even if the crowd is sparse, somehow walking those halls again--I'll remember, and when I do, I'll truly be glad.